Pet-Safe Gardens Free of Poisonous Plants | Trupanion
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How to Plant a Pet-Friendly Fall Garden

How to plant a pet-friendly fall garden and what to consider for your dog or cat.

Fall Gardening Free of Poisonous Plants for Dogs or Cats

Fall is so beautiful.  Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the cooler days, afternoon sunshine, and soil that is still warm. It’s the perfect time to get out in the yard or onto your deck and take care of some simple fall tasks that will make the winter much easier on your garden and the spring much brighter!  With a little careful planning, it is very easy to create a yard and garden that’s free of poisonous plants for dogs and cats.

There are two main factors to consider when planning a pet-safe Fall garden:

  1. Which plants, mulch, fertilizers, and bug and slug deterrents should I consider?
  2. What is the nature of my pet or pets? Are they chewers, eaters, and sniffers?

Pick Pet-Safe Plants and Supplies for Your Fall Gardening

It’s important to avoid certain plants that are common in many yards. These are the most dangerous, most toxic plants we might consider adding to our yards or deck planter boxes in the fall:

  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, and death.
  • Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) – can cause tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, and death.
  • Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) – can cause vomiting, seizures, depression, and trouble breathing.
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) – can cause vomiting, heart trouble, disorientation, coma, and seizures.
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander) – can cause diarrhea, trouble breathing, tremors, collapse, and incoordination.
  • Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius)- can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, fever, shock, and death.

You should also avoid hydrangea, azalea, boxwood, daffodils, tulips, rhododendron, iris, elephant’s ear, clematis, and English ivy. Though it’s wise to plant these in fall so they beautifully blossom in the spring, these common plants can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea and if ingested in larger amounts, lead to more serious health problems.

The bulbs of tulips and daffodils are often more toxic than the stems and leaves of the plants that emerge in the spring. If you use bone meal or any bulb specific “fertilizer or supplement” as you do your fall planting, your dog will likely get into it. Dogs love bone meal, and even if they don’t see you plant the bulb, it is likely that they will dig into the bone meal and ingest what they find. If this does happen, head to your closest emergency veterinarian ASAP.

It’s also important to think about the plants you may already have in the yard in the fall. The most surprising problem can be plants or trees that fruit falls from. Your puppy would love to gorge on the ripe fruit. These include:

  • Apple (the seeds contain cyanide)
  • Plum, cherry, apricots, and peaches (the pits contain cyanide)
  • Onions, chives, and garlic (can cause anemia)
  • Potato and rhubarb plant leaves (can cause vomiting)

If you do fall planting with garlic, be sure your garden or garden beds are safely fenced off so you don’t have any accidental ingestions! However, the best option is to keep toxic plants out of your yard.

There are some wonderfully safe annuals and perennials out there, and your local plant store expert or horticulturist can help point you in the right direction!

Non-plant concerns in the fall include lawn or garden fertilizers or supplements, pesticides, slug bait, mulch, and garden tools.  Talk to your local nursery about the safest options, read labels carefully, and store everything safely in sealed containers or out of reach.

Try natural products like vinegar for weeds, coffee grounds/ beer/ and salt for slugs, and soap and water as a natural pesticide. Avoid cocoa mulch as it comes from chocolate manufacturing and can contain substances that will cause minor chocolate poisoning (vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity) as well as general irritation to the mouth, stomach, and intestines.

Know Your Pet When Gardening this Fall

Many mature dogs and cats are discriminate – they might sniff what you’ve put in the garden, but are not inclined to eat plants or bone meal or beer we have put out for the slugs. The grass is often the exception and in small amounts, common grasses are safe. However, ornamental grasses can be very irritating to the mouth, throat, and nose, so if you have a big grass eater, it is safest to avoid these plants.

Remember that puppies and kittens are always an exception.  They will generally eat anything! It still makes the most sense to always pick the safest plants possible for our fall gardens and our deck pots.

Avoid Common Fall Gardening Hazards

The most common fall yard and gardening problems we see in the pet emergency room include dogs ingesting slug bait poison (metaldehyde), dogs eating decomposing things out of the compost pile after a good fall clean-up (including spoiled garden items), and dogs eating tulip or daffodil bulbs as they go after the bone meal.

Just a few bites of slug bait can cause terrible tremors.  Quick emergency treatment is essential for a quick recovery and as emergency room veterinary bills can be very costly, if you are an avid gardener and a pet lover, be sure to make sure you have excellent health coverage for your pet like Trupanion.

Enjoy your garden but do your research first!  Prevention is so much easier than sick animals and treatment.

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